If you read my blog post yesterday, you read about how I have a hard time letting go of the reins when I can’t be in two places at once and need help from someone else. If you read further than the words on the page, you may have gathered that sometimes I struggle with being a working woman and a mom to my kids all at the same time. This is magnified in the summertime when I am in an office and my kids are stuck at home to entertain themselves. I can’t even begin to tell you how guilty I feel that I’m not there to take them to the beach, or let them have friends over, keep them off the video games or away from the TV, or even just be there to supervise so they can leave the house to play.
But the truth is, I like working. When I take time off work for a simple stay-cation, I am bored out of my mind. And more often than not, I go back to work feeling like I accomplished nothing – as if there wasn’t enough time to relax, create family time, or do all those things I fantasize about doing whenever the weekend seems just too far away. Knowing that I am a poor manager of my time, I am well aware that being a stay-at-home mom would not be a good choice for me. A job gives me a reason to get up earlier than I would on my own, and forces me to do all the things I’d procrastinate on if I didn’t have something eating up 8 hours out of my day. I make it a point to spend time talking with the kids instead of taking them for granted. I have no problem getting my household responsibilities done since I only have a limited time to do them in. Plus, the whole money thing works out pretty well.
However, that choice is not without its consequences. There are parts of my mothering that have suffered because I am not home all the time. By the time I come home from work around 6pm, make dinner, and then clean up the kitchen, it nears bedtime and all we have time for is a quick homework check (“Did you do it?” “Yup.”). However, sometimes the report card tells a story all on its own, and any grades that were less than exemplary were symbolically tacked on my back as well.
A friend of mine is battling the opposite problem. At home, her husband has taken it upon himself to let her know she’s “just a stay-at-home mom”. He goes to work every single day and makes the money to cover their house payment, the bills, the food, and everything else it takes to run a family. She stays home with their boys, keeps the house in order, makes the meals, does the grocery shopping, entertains the kids, handles their doctor and dentist appointments, manages the bills, carts the kids to and from school, makes the meals….all without any pay. She’s stayed home with the boys for many years, making it a bleak reality that a job would be really hard to come by among other applicants who’ve had a career while she chose to stay home. Therefore, she must rely on her husband’s paycheck. And this makes her “just a stay-at-home mom”. And yet, her kids are happy and healthy, and are secure with their mother at their side to teach them the ins and outs of life before they become more independent.
Lisa Belkin, the parenting blogger for the NY Times, is starting a new book club. The book she is kicking off with is called “Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood”. It’s a collection of stories from moms from all different sides of motherhood, gathered by Samantha Parent Walravens. I’m not necessarily promoting the book, as I’ve never read it. But I found the concept intriguing enough to want to read it, as it covers the feelings moms go through when they make the choice to work outside of the home or stay home with the kids, and the sacrifices they go through when that choice is made.
And it also makes me wonder about all of you who have made this choice, and who grapple with it from time to time.
Did you give up your career to stay home with the kids? Or do you work out of the house while the kids stay home of go to daycare? Have you ever been judged or ridiculed by others for your working or stay-at-home role? Do you ever feel guilt or negative feelings – from twinges to full-blown resentment – about the choice you made? Or are you totally confident in your choice and have never looked back since? Share your thoughts in the comments. As always, anonymous comments are welcome.